What’s the Difference Between International, Foster Care and older Domestic Adoptions?

Kara Lamphere

Why does adoption of older children (anyone over the age of three) have such a bad reputation? I’ve heard many responses over the years. It really comes down to the fact that the older children have experienced early life trauma.

The kids use their survival skills even when they are no longer needed. They have difficulty understanding the difference between neglectful, dangerous homes and loving, caring homes.

Breaking down the differences in the types of adoptions is essential for parents to understand which type would be best for them.

International Adoptions:

Generally, the children will be over the age of four or be physically challenged. They won’t be able to understand your language and you won’t understand them. You’ll have to guess what their needs are for several months.

Some of the special needs international children can have include: developmental delays, autism, PTSD, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and reactive sexualized behaviors.

The medical issues can include blind, deaf, cleft palette, spina bifida, loss of limbs and other major health issues. As parents of a child with mental and/or physical disabilities are you prepared for caring for this child? Are you prepared for the costs of medical and counseling professionals?

Are you prepared for the fact that your child may never attach to your family? Do you know what you should be prepared for if your child has RAD? Most times parents think “love” will conquer all. It doesn’t! Children with RAD can destroy families.

RAD behaviors can be as simple as lying or stealing or as devastating as endangering children or parents with out-of-control anger. Some of these children turn out well, others land in residential treatment facilities until they reach 18 or 21. The reality of this is that parents need to prepare for all the devastating issues that adoption brings.

Foster Care Adoptions:

The U.S. Foster Care systems have a reputation of placing children for adoption who have multiple problems. This not always the case, but happens frequently.

Placing children in multiple placements due to the insane idea that every child should be reunified with their biological parents, no matter how they lost custody of the child in the first place, causes the child to experience lack of trust in any caregiver.

There are great foster homes with really loving parents who care about the children placed with them. There are good foster homes where the family treats the children okay, but are mostly doing it for the income. The worst foster homes are where sexual abuse is rampant and it never gets reported.

When foster children finally have their parental rights removed, they become available for adoption. There have been situations where the child had visitations with their biological parents for five or six years without the parents doing what was court ordered.

Who adopts foster kids? Many times? it’s usually the last foster home the child was placed in. For a lot of foster children, they remain in foster care until they age out at 18. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption has made it their goal to see many children in foster care be placed in permanent homes.

Foster children have many of the same issues as international children have. Many of these children suffer from RAD and/or sexualized behaviors. Families that adopt them really aren’t anymore prepared for their behaviors as families adopting internationally, because it’s a policy of the foster care system to not disclose what happened to the child before he/she came into the new family.

The best thing is these kids speak and understand English. To help families adopting a foster kid they may come with Medicaid and a stipend.

Domestic Adoptions of Older Children:

These adoptions are not foster care or international adoptions even though the children may have come from other countries or foster care. They are considered secondary adoptions. There are two agencies that assist with these adoptions: Nightlight Christian Adoptions and Wasatch International Adoptions.

Nightlight works with states where they have offices. Wasatch has two programs, Second Chance for Kids (places kids ages four to nine) and R.A.D. Teen Adoptions (places kids nine to 15.) Wasatch covers all but a few states.

The programs do cost more than foster care, but are less than international adoptions and the children speak English.

Children in these programs can have any or all the problems discussed in the other two adoption programs. Often times they may be diagnosed with any of the “alphabet soup**” mental problems out there, but when placed with a different family these kids often do a 180 turn around and settle down and attach to the new family.

You can check out these three programs at:




Thanks for reading my post.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW


**Alphabet soup = ADHD, PTST, RAD, ODD, GAD (Check out my post on Alphabet Soup)

What’s the Taboo Topic that Parents of Kids with RAD Hate to Discuss?

This topic makes families shudder. Do you know what it is? Or, you know what it is and wish it would just vanish from your child’s life. Guess what? It doesn’t!

A lot of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) have been sexually abused by previous caregivers. There, I’ve said it. Let’s bring this problem into the light.

Humans are sexual beings. God made us this way, sorry to tell you this, but it’s true. When children are sexually abused, it’s a person exerting their power over a defenseless child. The child is not to blame!!!

I had a teenage foster daughter who was sexually abused by her father and her mother never believed her when she tried to report him. This girl was really strong and would fight anyone to protect herself. I told her it was okay to feel the way she did and that I would fight for her as much as I could, so she wasn’t alone. That child was a beautiful person.

Pretending it doesn’t exist is telling the child, as far as you are concerned, it really didn’t happen. This could be a trigger for the child’s behaviors and families don’t recognize it.

As an adoptive parent of a child from India who was continuously sexually abused most of her life before I adopted her, I had to accept that she was going to act out sexually. Because of her age, I couldn’t monitor her every move (she was actually closer to 14 when she arrived than the 10-year-old she was legally supposed to be.)

When she was legally 12, I discovered she was pregnant. She didn’t know what was happening to her body. She could not describe the changes to her body, so she never said anything.  She was six-months pregnant. She had hidden it well. I explained to her what to expect and a few days later she began to feel movement. It freaked her out.

A couple of years later, after being in a teenage therapy group, she told me and the therapist what her life in India was really like. She was continually raped by her father after her mother died. She equated sex with “LOVE.” She could never understand that sex wasn’t a guy’s way of saying he loved her.

I discussed with her about being sexually active and how to keep herself safe. I can honestly say, my talks didn’t stop her. If there had been ways to prevent getting pregnant that she could use, like they have today, I would have had her on it.

For families with children abused sexually before you adopted them, please be understanding of your child’s sexualized behaviors. Accept it as part of them and treat them as normal children. Do NOT make it sound like they’re damaged beyond repair (don’t tell me all of you would never do that, because it’s human nature to think so).

I will always advocate for sexually abused children. They need to come to terms with their history and learn that they still are valuable people.

Sexual abuse should never define a child’s life.

Thank you for reading my post.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

I support: Wasatch International’s Second Chance for Kids program (secondchance@wiaa.org) and the R.A.D. Teen Adoption Program (radteenadopting@wiaa.org

Please contact either program if you have any questions about how they work.

What Makes Families of R.A.D. Kids Crazy?

There are some specific things people who want to adopt children from other countries or the US Foster Care systems need to consider. These are all those unknown things that can be major triggers.

Kid and Parent

Have you heard the saying “Never adopt out of birth order?” What that means is if you have other children in the home, for example, a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, you might want to re-consider adopting that cute little 8-year-old. The problems may not seem to be an issue, but the 8-year-old may be jealous of the 9-year-old and wants to do something dangerous to the 7-year-old.

Are you parents who’ve had biological children and then decided to adopt a child older than anyone else in the family? That move can be detrimental to everyone in the family. The new kid may have spent several years in foster care and has figured out how to manipulate people. If so, that’s like adding fuel to already burning candles. And off they go!

How about trauma bonds? Do you know what they are? Children that grow up together should be placed together, right? Not necessarily so. Biological children that grow up in the same destructive environment often have a bond that keeps them from attaching to a different family.  That bond may cause the children to attack each other as well as other family members. The best outcome can be to separate them.

Kara Lamphere

Have you ever felt sorry for the orphan from a poor country? I did! My daughter arrived in Utah with the dress on her back and a pair of underwear. That was it! The first thing I had to do was go out and find her some clothes. Of course, I didn’t know what it meant when you have to buy them a whole new wardrobe. ENTITLEMENT!!! Every time I took her to a store after that, she would scream if she didn’t get something new.

In the past, I always loved shopping, but not for a long time. When she married and moved on with her life, I still had PTSD and could find myself getting out of the store as fast as I could. I’m still that way.

Most parents of children with RAD will tell you they will lie about everything whether they need to or not. Sometimes it seems like they will take the lie with them to the grave. It’s like that’s how they learned to survive.

I don’t know the statistic to tell you how many of the RAD kids steal, but I know mine did – she learned it as a survivor skill and then used it to take what she wanted when she wanted it. Almost all of the kids I’ve dealt with who have RAD have at one time or another tried or did steal. It’s a hard habit for them to break, almost as bad as lying.

The final RAD behavior I want to discuss is about the kids who use dissociation as a way to protect themselves.  My daughter did this every time I tried to correct her. It infuriated me to no end. She would stand absolutely frozen; her eyes would roll back into her head and she was gone. I finally had had it and I put my hands together and clapped very loudly. It startled her and she came out of the trance. I told her never to do that again and she didn’t.

Not many RAD kids do the trance thing, but it’s a protective measured used by kids who have been sexually abused repeatedly. My daughter fit that category. I had no idea about her previous life before me, but that one behavior should have given me a clue

Do you all feel like there is nothing more that can be done for the families except to suffer or send their child to a residential treatment facility (RTF)? I know I’m an optimist, I always see the cup as half full. I always hope for a better solution than years with no one to call as their family.

Anyone who’s read any of my blog posts knows that I’ve not had a wonderful outcome with my RAD daughter. I admit that, but it wasn’t from me not trying. I do believe her outcome would have been better if she had been adopted by a 2-parent family. What the experience did is make me a stronger advocate for children.

I’ve been helping families with RAD for 11 years. My life’s goal is to keep on helping families and RAD kids as long as I’m able.

Thanks for reading my post. If you want more information, please contact me at: lamp1685@yahoo.com.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

A New Addition to the Alphabet Soup!

New Research:

In May and the first part of June this year, I read many research articles on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). What can I tell you who are parents of children with RAD? Probably nothing new. However, I recently read a couple of articles that suggest a better diagnosis for children with RAD is Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD).

The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual (DSM 5), which is always slow to add new diagnoses of any kind, says RAD is caused by traumatic experiences before the age of five. There have been some critical objections to that age limit, but for the most part children under five don’t have the mental capabilities to fight off the results of trauma.

There is a good article I recommend called “Learn how to recognize the signs, symptoms, and effects of reactive attachment disorder.” The Resource Treatment Center provides comprehensive mental health and psychiatric treatment for youth who are suffering from RAD.

This article really goes into great detail about RAD and all the issues the children have. If you need help locating the article, please let me know – I’ll help you find it.

I read a continuing education article from the American Psychology Association on the subject of Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) which I found very interesting and described RAD behaviors in children better than anything I’ve read on the subject.

Here’s an article that might explain it better: Developmental Trauma Disorder – A new, rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories by: Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD.


Being informed is the best thing and I think the new designation of DTD is much better than RAD – you know, more alphabet soup!

If you get a chance to read any of these articles, I’d love to hear from you. My email is lamp1685@yahoo.com.

Thanks for reading my blog.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

Help for Families of R.A.D. Kids

anns face old

I wish I had an open door to talk to adoption social workers all over the country. I would like to talk to them about families in distress because of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and the lack of help available to these families.

Every day, I hear stories of families who need help, but no one wants to do it. I want to hear why this is so common. Are these families so scary or do you feel inadequate to help the families?

I can tell anyone who will listen, I understand. I’ve parented a RAD child. I may never have all the answers, but I will try to offer support, ideas for out-of-home placements and offer a shoulder to cry on.

There are times I want to reach through a computer screen and hug an angry parent. It’s really hard to see so many families torn apart by an angry, hurtful child and then being told they didn’t love the child enough.


I’m only one person. I would do everything in my power to help every family with a RAD child, but I can’t. I need to find other social workers willing to realize it’s not the current parents that have made their child behave the way he or she does.

One of the best things for a traumatized child often times is a different family. When they first enter a stable, loving family, children bring along all the issues that caused their trauma and then cause more trauma.

I get sick to my stomach when I think what adult humans can do to a child. I see children who act out sexually because a slime-bag adult took out their need for control and assaulted the child in indescribable torture.

I see parents who recognize the child’s situation and want to rescue that child, only to discover the child doesn’t appreciate their caring and is unthankful to be saved.  

I have been a child advocate for 40 years. I have fought judges and case workers for children. I’ve been a reviewer of foster care files for a group trying to reform the foster care system in Utah. Reading those files would leave me crying, trying to shake off the lack of support any parent had because the people in power just didn’t care.

I’m sitting here in my little office wondering how to reach retired or semi-retired social workers and get them to volunteer and help these families. I do believe in being a caring, loving person to people in need.

If someone knows a person that would love to get involved, please email me at lamp1685@yahoo.com

Thanks for reading my blog.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

Who Likes Teenagers?

Kara and Susan 1980

Or should I say, “Who Likes teenagers with Reactive Attachment Disorder?” I can honestly say, I like teenagers in general. Those with RAD are usually just more difficult to reach. But, I like them too!

The RAD kids are tough and will try to manipulate you or want to stir up problems or usually respond with something negative. Are you capable of ignoring the bad behaviors and try to find the positives the child has.

I love a challenge. It’s so important that we try to reach these kids. If you understand the normal teenage brain (who does by the way?), you know they don’t think anything like an adult. A RAD teen’s brain is already in that mode, so it’s important to mentor them and gently guide them without losing your cool.

There’s a new option out there for the older children with Reactive Attachment Disorder. It’s called R.A.D. Teen Adoptions and it is a program from the agency Wasatch International Adoptions. The program will take children nine to 15.

The agency knows that there are people out there who have adopted teenagers from foreign countries and these children have a chance of turning out to be happy, successful adults. There is a statistic of 75% used by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption in research completed in 2017 to state that older children adopted from foster care can turn their lives around with a stable, loving family.

Not all children settle in as permanent family members, but use the adults as mentors and change their thinking around. Success with RAD kids needs to be counted when a child makes plans for their own future with or without the aid of the family that took on the challenge and adopted them.

Are you a person that likes teenagers? Are you ready for the biggest challenge of your life? Remember, parenting these kids requires a lot of patience, self-confidence, and a willingness to take a risk in order to change a child’s life.

For more information, email them at radteenadopting@wiaa.org.

Thanks for reading,

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

My email is lamp1685@yahoo.com

My First Experience with Foster Care


The following tale is about my first introduction to the horrors of foster care. This took place some 40 years ago, but nothing has changed. The antiquated thought processes are still in place. The workers and judges insist that the child is a possession of the biological parents, no matter what.

REUNIFICATION? Here’s a sad statistic over a period of 3 years? This is from the USD Health and Human Services (HHS) dated 12/01/2001. “The prevailing feature of the reunification process is that the likelihood of exit by reunification is highest at the beginning of a child’s first stay in foster care, and gradually decreases as time in care elapses.”

For all foster care episodes observed in the data, approximately 8 percent ended in reunification during the first month of care, about 30 percent during the first year in care, and about 40 percent during the first three years in care.”

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

This meant that 60% of all children being forced to reunify with biological parents failed the process.  The only other stats that were fairly new came from 2019 from the HHS. It mentions that there were over 400,000 children in foster care, there were 71,300 parental rights terminated, 66,000 adopted and 122,200 children waiting for adoption.

The children have no say in what their lives should be, even when they are old enough to explain the situation in their families. Therefore, the children suffer twice, once from the parental abuse and then again from the people who should be helpful, but are NOT!!!! I’ve decided to call foster care workers and social workers, “Whatevers.”

My foster child, Susan’s ’father had been abusing her and her sister since they were about 6 or 7 years old. They begged their mother to get him to stop and she basically said it never happened.

Because no one believed her, Susan ran away from home at 16. She made it to California, but was picked up and returned home. She ran away again and it was determined that she should be placed in foster care. That’s when she was placed with me.

Kara and Susan 1980

She started to give me trouble, but I sat her down and told her that it was okay to be a kid and I would protect her as much as I could. The social whatevers were not helpful. They insisted she meet with her parents and go back to live with them.

By now, Susan had told me what went on in her home and I didn’t want to let her meet with her parents alone. The social “whatever” said I had to wait outside because it was none of my business. Her father attacked her in the meeting, had her on the floor banging her head over and over on the floor while 2 social “whatevers” just sat there watching. It took a male social worker to pull him off her.

The social “whatevers” had a responsibility to report her dad for physical abuse. He was never held accountable for attacking her in a required meeting. My question has always been, “Why not?”

The staff called me in to take Susan home. Instead, I took her to an emergency room where she was diagnosed with a slight concussion. I had to check on her every 2 hours that night. I called her case worker the next day and told her what happened. She agreed that Susan shouldn’t be forced to meet with her parents again.

The thing that really bothered me about all this was that Susan had told the authorities that her father had been sexually abusing the foster children her parents had been taking in for years. Nobody believed her.

Susan’s father didn’t have any trouble convincing the foster care “whatevers” that he hadn’t done anything to his daughters and his wife, Susan’s mother backed him up.

Then one day a girl placed in Susan’s parent’s home came forward and told the worker just what happened in that home.  Susan was finally vindicated. The state finally closed her parent’s home.

The saddest part of that story is that Susan’s sister was still in the home. The foster care “whatevers” never removed her or their brother, so the abuse continued.

The Foster Care systems have such a difficult time finding families for older children that they will take any family that agrees to foster older children.

I personally know of a situation where two girls ages 15 and 16 were in a home that had been taking teen age girls for several years. When the girls reported the foster dad for sexual abuse, he categorically denied it at first. Then he said the girls were flirting with him and he couldn’t help himself. The state immediately shut them down.

The thing with the above case is that the dad was probably right. The girls found his weakness and manipulated him into a situation that he’d not been in before. He had been drinking, so he was a bit vulnerable to their behaviors.

Most foster parents always live with the possibility of having CPS charges made against them. RAD kids, as anyone with a RAD kid understands, can do incredible damage to a well-meaning family.

The sad thing is nobody really knows how to fix the foster care systems. The turnover in foster care workers has always been a problem in that the higher ups can’t seem to understand what those workers see on a daily basis.

The best thing about my time with Susan is that she continues to give me hope that abused children can and do survive the worst of situations and come out the other side stable and loving.

I believe that there are families out there who would adopt these children if they knew they could do so without dealing with the foster care systems.

Thanks for reading this post. Please email me at lamp1685@yahoo.com/ with comments or questions.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

What’s Worse Than a RAD kid?

Silhouette of children

A RAD child with sexualized behavior seems to be the worst diagnosis for an adoptive family to relate to. I know I’m in the minority when I say we need to be open to having a conversation about sex with our adopted children, but it’s true.

A lot of adopted foster kids or kids adopted internationally have experienced being sexualized. We need to let our children know it’s okay and teach them that it’s all right to discuss their issues.

Does talking about sex make you uncomfortable? With children who have, what I call, reactive sexualization, families need to come to terms discussing sexual issues with their children.

Kara and Susan 1980

I’m a single adoptive parent and a former foster parent.  Both my daughter, Kara and my foster daughter, Susan were sexually abused as little children. I know the case workers in my foster kid’s situation didn’t believe her, but I did.

Neither child’s story made me uncomfortable. My parents were very comfortable discussing sexual relations. My sister and I grew up being able to discuss our sexuality with our parents any time we needed to. I’ve always been grateful for their maturity and openness.

Other kids in our neighborhood didn’t know anything about sex until they were in their teens and then sex was a “hush hush, don’t talk about it to others!” Yet kids in high school were having sexual relationships and girls were getting pregnant.

Pregnant lady

The “sex” topic needs to have the stigma attached to it removed.  We’re not living in Queen Victoria’s time, we’re in the 21st century and the “sex” topic should be acceptable in homes with children who have been sexually abused because being able to discuss it without being condemned is important for the victims to feel safe.

As a social worker, I want to help families get more comfortable with discussing reactive sexualization in their adopted children. Maybe I should do a course on how to react to a child with sexual issues.

Anyone who is reading this post who wants to know more about parenting a RAD child with sexualized behaviors, please feel free to email me. I believe it’s important to help new or existing parents understand what these children need.

My email is lamp1685@yahoo.com

Thank you for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you.

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Are You an Angry Parent of a RAD Child?

Touching Hands

I know I am! How about you, my readers? What is really causing your anger? Is it your child or is it the fact that when you ask for help the power-people tell you “You just need to LOVE them more?”

When I hear that statement, I always wonder if these nincompoops have ever had an adopted child who had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Those people have no clue what parents of RAD kids go through.

I think those of us who are affected by RAD need to talk to the people who are in charge of each state’s Social or Human Services committee at the legislative level.  Changes need to be made!

There are several states that don’t allow families to find a different family for their RAD children. In other words, there is no option for families who want a different placement that might benefit their kids except to place them in either boarding schools or residential treatment facilities (RTF).

The states are Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Florida, New York and Wisconsin. The power-people there really haven’t thought through what happens to a family that adopts a RAD child – in other words they don’t believe families are suffering. If they are, it’s the family’s fault for taking on a damaged child.

(Don’t get me started on the uselessness of those boarding schools or RTFs. Children are abused mentally, physically, emotionally and/or sexually in those places. The kids don’t learn how to deal with life in healthy ways while locked up in those mini-jails.)

I know how beat up families can be after even just a few months living with a RAD child. It’s a crime that when a family tries to get help, they’re the ones blamed for the child’s behavior.

I’d like to start a campaign to get politicians aware of the inequities of the treatment of a family who adopts a difficult child and the family that adopts a well-behavedl child. The only way to get laws changed is to get politicians involved.

Are you parents so exhausted you can’t seem to function any more.  I totally understand. This is why no one in the RAD community can get enough strength to even discuss it with fellow RAD parents let alone someone who acts indifferent to your plight, as most politicians don’t have time for us little guys with a specific issue no one understands but us.

The question is “How do we reach these people?” One way may be getting your story told to the news media. Another way is to unite with other RAD families in your state and start a letter writing/email campaign to specific lawmakers to raise their awareness.

A complaint I hear regularly is news people get things wrong all the time. NOT SO! If it’s about publishing a story, always ask to see or read it before it goes public. Information is always important, but it needs to be correct or it’s useless.

I want to be known as a RADical adoptive parent/social worker. If you want to join my crusade, please join my email list or email me at lamp1685@yahoo.com

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Are You a Good Candidate for an Adoptive Parent of a RAD Child?

Isn’t that a dumb question? Parenting children is all about love, right? With a RAD kid, love flies out the window. Everything a loving person tries is rejected.


Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) rewires a child’s brain, so what’s right is wrong and what’s wrong becomes the behaviors of these children. A first-time parent of a RAD child is often confused because they’ve never experienced a child like this.

As a first-time parent of a RAD child, I can relate to how these kids can drive a parent crazy. I’m an advocate for parents of RAD kids and the kids themselves. I have seen miracles happen with RAD kids.

Children running

So many families dealing with a RAD kid’s behaviors, don’t believe there is any hope for their children. This always makes me sad.

I want to yell at the world these kids have been damaged due to their biological parents’ neglect, the foster care’s reunification plans and being shifted from pillar to post, while the juvenile court runs its course.

How would you feel if you had to walk in the shoes of a RAD kid? What would your response have been if it had happened to you before you were 8 or 9 years of age?

Is it better to leave a child in an Residential Treatment Facility (RTF) or find a different living environment? What always bothers me is hearing about parents leaving their child in an RTF or boarding school until the child reaches 18 and then they won’t let the child ever return home.

Listening to a father tell me the “power-people” are telling him his child needs to be in an (RTF) until he’s 18, is so heart-breaking to me. This father wants something better for his son. I totally understand.

Kids and parents

Working for the last 11 years with parents of RAD kids has given me hope. I believe there are parents out there that could be a different option for RAD kids.

I have seen RAD kids do a total 180 turn around in different families. There are success stories all over the place. There have been a few who didn’t want to cooperate with a new family and their behaviors continued unabated.

Believe it or not, at that point, placing that particularly difficult child in a single parent home changes the whole dynamics and the child settles down. We have seen similar results with same-sex couples.

Every once in a while, nothing can help these children. I wish it weren’t so, but it happens. The early damage is just too over powering for the child to come back and live a normal life.

I wish I could help all the parents and their children who need a new environment. All parents of RAD kids need support from their families, communities and power people. They have my unconditional support no matter what.

Thank you for reading my blog.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

If you want to hear more about options for parents of RAD kids, please email me at lamp1685@yahoo.com

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